Chromebook Accessibility

Adam and I were discussing Chromebook accessibility recently as part of an outreach visit. Chromebooks, like most modern operating systems, has many built-in accessibility features that may not be obvious. Here's an overview of some of Chromebook's accessibility features as they relate to students with visual impairments.

Magnification

Chromebooks have several ways of enlarging text and images on the screen. Students can increase the font and image size from within Chrome (which will not enlarge toolbar or menu items) by pressing Control+Plus. Font and image size can be decreased by pressing Control+Minus, and returned to default by pressing Control+0). Students can also adjust the screen resolution, which will make everything on the screen larger or smaller. Screen resolution can be decreased (so that everything is larger) by pressing Control+Shift+Plus. To increase resolution (make everything smaller) press Control+Shift+Minus, and to return to the default resolution, press Control+Shift+0.

Finally, students can magnify the screen using the built-in magnification feature, which uses a zoom window that can be moved by pushing the cursor against its edges (similar to ZoomText or Windows Magnifier on Windows or Zoom on Mac). To To magnify the screen, press Control+Search+M. To increase magnification, press Control+Alt+BrightnessUp and to decrease magnification press Control+Alt+BrightnessDown.

Chromebooks also offer numerous types of screen enhancement in addition to magnification. These include inverting the contrast so that the display shows white text on a black background, cursor and caret enhancements to make the mouse pointer and input caret more visible, and focus enhancements to make the keyboard focus easier to follow. To learn more about how to set up and use these features, as well as additional details for using magnification, visit how to zoom in or magnify your Chromebook screen or watch the below video.

Speech

Students can also access their Chromebook through speech and braille using ChromeVox, Google's built-in screen reader. To active ChromeVox, press Control+Alt+Z (this is a toggle, so press it again to turn ChromeVox off). On tablets, ChromeVox can be activated by simultaneously holding down the VolumeDown and VolumeUp buttons. ChromeVox offers an extensive set of commands for navigation and screen reading, but here are a few to get started:

  • To decrease speech rate, press Search+Shift+LeftSquareBracket
  • To increase speech rate, press Search+LeftSquareBracket
  • To pause speech, press Control
  • To start reading from the current location, press Search+R
  • To move to the previous object, press Search+LeftArrow
  • To move to the next object, press Search+RightArrow
  • To move to the previous heading, press Search+Shift+H
  • To move to the next heading, press Search+H
  • To move to the top of a page, press Search+Control+LeftArrow
  • To move to the bottom of a page, press Search+Control+RightArrow
  • To see a list of all ChromeVox commands, press Search+Period
  • To turn on Learn Mode (announces commands as keys are pressed), press Search+O, then K
  • To turn off Learn Mode, press Control+W

If a student doesn't want to continually have to press the Search key, they can turn on Sticky Mode by pressing the Search key twice quickly. This allows commands to be entered without pressing Search. To turn off Sticky Mode, press the Search key twice quickly again.

To learn much more about using ChromeVox, visit how to use the biult-in screen reader or watch the below video.

Google also offers a video on intermediate ChromeVox features.

Braille

Chromebooks also support access with a braille display. To begin using a braille device, just plug it in to a USB port. After a few seconds, it should eb automatically detected, and ChromeVox will automatically be turned on if it's not already activated. Many ChromeVox commands ban be issued from a braille keyboard. ChromeVox also has a feature called braille captions, where it will display visually the text that is show on the braille display. To enable braille captions, press Search+A+B. To learn much more about using braille with ChromeVox, visit use a braille device with your Chromebook.

More Accessibility Features

Chromebooks offer additional accessibility features for students who may have disabilities in addition to a visual impairment. These features include keyboard accessibility (such as sticky keys, adjusting the key repeat rate, and highlighting), an on-screen keyboard, word prediction, speech recognition, and features to make the trackpad more accessible. To learn more about setting up and using these features, see turn on Chromebook accessibility features.

About the author

Jen Jesso

I have worked in various roles in the field of visual impairment since 2007. In addition to working as a teacher of students with visual impairments, I recently completed coursework to become an orientation and mobility specialist. I have been fortunate to work with the fantastic team at PRCVI since 2014.

I enjoy many aspects of my role at PRCVI, but highlights include working with teachers of students with visual impairments and their students on outreach visits and working on PRCVI initiatives and projects.

Outside of work, my interests include reading, computer programming, swimming, and spending time with friends and family.

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